THIS season’s climactic conclusion of the Shoalhaven Senior Football Association’s competition will feature two clubs with similar grand final records.
Shoalhaven United will be taking part in their first grand final since 2009 and will be looking for their first win since 2003 to join Culburra on a record nine premiership wins.
Culburra will be playing in their third grand final in four years, but their last win was in 2007.
Will Shoalhaven United be able to do the competition championship/premiership double, or will Culburra move to a record 10 premiership wins?
Shoalhaven United were undefeated in 2011 but failed to make the finals last year, while Culburra have gone from wooden spooners in 2011 to grand finalists two years running.
Incredibly this will be their seventh grand final appearance in the last 11 years.
United won through to the grand final after defeating Culburra on penalties in a memorable major semi-final.
They looked dead and buried on two occasions but scored in the dying minutes of both normal time and extra time to take the match to a dreaded penalty shootout. Even this was dramatic as every player in each side was called upon to take a penalty before United were declared winners.
Culburra recovered from their major semi-final loss and played well to defeat Illaroo 2-1 in last week’s preliminary final.
Previous results this year saw Culburra win the first round 4-2, while United turned the tables in the second round to win 3-nil.
The United strike force will be Michael Binney and Kaine Good.
Binney has been a revelation in his first year up front, while Good has caused many defensive line-ups problems with his pace and skill.
While the exact Culburra line-up is unknown, the defence will be selected from Jayden Witt, Kasey Kulcsar, Aaron Mason, Daniel Wells and Lindsey Higgins.
In goals the ever reliable Scott Merivale won’t let the side down.
The midfield line-ups of both sides ooze quality.
United will have Jason Button, Warrick Schutz, Alex Dicker and Dale Baxter. Culburra is also formidable with the likes of Kieran Witt, Dale Blundell, Blair Sutherland, James Melocco and Robert Hill all looking to make their mark on the match.
The United back line is likely to be Nando Lattanzio, Matt Lewis, Matt Fuz and Allan Potter and they will have the unenviable task of controlling Culburra’s dynamic duo of Corey Ryan and Steve Gray.
Both of these guys are dangerous and will have to be watched closely.
If they do manage to get through Nathan Murphy in the United goal will be hoping to stop them in their tracks.
The intensity of this match could see injuries or just plain exhaustion and both sides may look to their reserve benches.
The United bench will be selected from Shaun Aldous, Shane Button, Ryan Miller, Kris Brant, James Spackman, Billy Wallington and Brett Ringland.
United coach Trevor Skingle will be looking to these guys to make an impact if required.
Culburra coach Steve Melocco has utilised his bench well during the final series, and if called upon, Lewis Bonney, Marc Williams, Justin Butler and Keith Merivale will not let anyone down.
The local first grade grand final experience is similar for these two sides.
The United starting line-up has 23 appearances between them with Warrick Schutz, Nando Lattanzio and Dale Baxter having 18 of these.
Only Allan Potter, Alex Dicker, Michael Binney and Kaine Good have not appeared in one.
United’s captain Matt Lewis actually played for Culburra in the 2010 decider. Culburra has 15 appearances between them with only Kasey Kulcsar, Blair Sutherland and Robert Hill making their local first grade grand final debut. Corey Ryan has played in three and one of these was for Basin against Culburra in 2006.
The last time these two clubs met in a grand final was in 2003 when United had a record 7-nil win.
Shane Button and Lindsey Higgins are the only remaining players from either squad that played in that match.
The average age of the respective line-ups is quite different.
While the exact starting sides are unknown the expected line-up of Culburra will have an average age of 23.
United is likely to be the oldest side on average to ever take the field in a grand final at 30.
United has been dealing with the jibes of being too old for several years, but despite their age, they have still made it to the big day.
United’s Dale Baxter and Nando Lattanzio will be the oldest players on the field at 42, while at the other end of the spectrum, Jayden Witt, Kasey Kulcsar, Robert Hill, Lewis Bonney and Billy Wallington are all 17.
If both sides play to their potential and the game is free flowing, it will be a good spectacle for the large crowd expected to be on hand.
Both sides have had a win against each other and the major semi-final was as even as a game can be.
Culburra probably have more game breakers and are definitely a faster side, but United are experienced and have a never say die attitude.
These two sides have been the most successful since the competition started in 1973 with 17 premierships between them.
Come 5pm Saturday only one will add to their record.
This game is expected to be close and go right down to the wire, but Culburra may just be able to do enough to lift the Blackmore Bolden Shield for the 10th time.